(LifeSiteNews) — In less than one month, Virginians from all corners of the Commonwealth will meet with their legislators to advocate for life and support pro-life legislation being considered in the year’s first General Assembly.
On Feb. 9 in Richmond, Defending Life Day will bring pro-life constituents into the offices of their delegates and senators during a “crossover” period in the General Assembly, when bills leaving the House move to the Senate for consideration. While several pro-life bills have strong support in the House, the Senate committees are still controlled by pro-abortion majorities.
The goal, said Olivia Gans-Turner, Virginia Society for Human Life president, is to have every single district represented in the halls of the General Assembly. Even those from far reaching districts may be virtually present through a social media platform.
“We want the halls [of the GA building] to be crowded with people,” Turner said. “Our goal is a minimum of 10 people per delegate. That is achievable. The goal is that no legislator can say they weren’t addressed by their constituents.”
Novice lobbyists will be provided with talking points, legislative updates and guidance for effective constituent meetings.
“Lobbying with legislators has been done for years, but this is different because it’s a collaborative effort between the Catholic dioceses, VSHL and other groups as well,” Turner said. “The Catholic Women’s Association are engaged and interested as well as the Family Foundation. Every pro-lifer is welcome, this is not Catholic-specific but meant to be as broad-reaching as possible.”
VSHL is a non-sectarian organization.
“The goal is to guarantee, on Feb. 9, every member of the General Assembly, every delegate, every senator, will have a visit from a group of constituents from their territory,” Turner said. “Nothing makes as much of a difference in a legislator’s mind than the physical effort made by their constituents during the General Assembly. We’ve heard that from years from delegates and senators; that impresses them.”
Local leaders needed
Turner anticipates broader public access to legislators under the Republican, pro-life leadership currently in place in Virginia.
“This is a year that the doors are opening again and we need to do something when active involvement in the process is available again,” Turner said. “Our responsibility as pro-life citizens is back to the role of physical, active participation. While the rallies and marches have been extremely helpful and important, speaking to their legislators is something that many pro-lifers have never done. The impact that concerned citizens have when they address their own legislators cannot be minimized.”
District captains will support the effort by gathering a group of advocates from their neighborhood and community to meet with their legislator. VSHL will organize and coordinate meetings as well as provide talking points.
Jackee Gonzalez spent the last decade working in Virginia politics in different capacities. She has worked for members of the legislature as well as lobbying for a local, pro-life non-profit.
“Our system was created so that we would all participate as citizen advocates,” Gonzalez said. “By coming, you also gain perspective you wouldn’t have otherwise and you become a better advocate and you become more confident and you can share with more people in your community with intelligence about the issues. It works in a synergistic way to help the advocate as well as the legislator you’re coming to see.”
‘No substitute for showing up’
“When legislators are in their offices during session, the person in front of them is the person that they see,” Gonzalez said.
“There is no substitute for showing up,” Gonzalez said. “It’s the people who show up who get their agendas accomplished. When there’s a group, and you’re talking about the same issue, it makes a bigger impact. [Legislators] see one, you exist, and two, you are organized and that means you have influence in the district. In their mind, the people who show up are the majority and they will respond quicker to those people.”
Potential bills, obstacles
A Born Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act, Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and bills to restrict abortion funding in the budget are all expected to be on the table this session.
“We are hopeful that we can take steps to prevent abortion funding with our tax funds,” Turner said.
“The Senate is the obstacle course; it is still controlled by pro-abortion legislators,” Turner said. “It will be extremely difficult to get these bills out of the Senate so we believe putting physical pressure on these senators, in the building, during the session, may get [pro-life bills] to the floor for a vote. If that happens there could be a tie in the Senate and our Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears could break a tie. This puts pressure on people who think they want to be in office again in a year.”
“If you’re a legislator, you’re representing maybe 200,000 people and you have tons of bills and meetings and things to pay attention to,” Gonzalez said. “At the very forefront of your mind, though, is trying to get re-elected. That’s one of the priorities [legislators] have.”
For more information or to sign up as a district captain, visit the Defending Life Day website.